Friday, December 19, 2014

Student Rock Art

Did you ever wonder what would happen if you asked your students to express their own narratives in the style of ancient rock art? I did. And there was a point to it.

The exercise allows them to express any story, be it their adventures at the weekend, travel experiences, a fairytale, or a soap opera issue. Whatever they like.

They draw the image(s) and then swap with their peers. The group tries to figure out what the story was about. It can be much more difficult that you might think, and misunderstandings are almost guranteed.

Students quickly see that even within their own broadly culturally homogenous group, interpretation is fraught with difficulties. Which leads them to understand how tricky interpretation of (particularly prehistoric) material can be.

Plus, it's lots of silly fun! The prefect lesson to finish off the term before the holiday break.

Check out the first batch of uploaded images here:

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Stanton Drew fieldtrip

Just a short drive outside of Bristol are the beautiful stone circles of Stanton Drew. I accompanied Prof. Mark Horton and our enthusiastic third years on a fieldtrip that introduced secondary school students from Merchant's Academy to the world of Archaeology.

It was cold and windy, but nothing could dull Mark's excitement as he raced through thousands of years of history in just an hour. Students got hands on with the stones, climbing on top of the monuments and seeing the scale in person was quite impressive. They were amazed to hear how far away the source of the stonework was, and surprised to hear that it was once filled with timber posts. They ventured their own ideas on interpretation, and I must admit we were very impressed with some of their ideas - a bright bunch this lot!
Pof Mark Horton
Merchant's Academy students at Stanton Drew
As the sun set we headed to three stones behind the Druid's Arms pub. One appears to have fallen down over the ages. Mark tried out some experimental archaeology and his idea that the semicircular shape could have acted as a sound projection (video footage, below). Great fun and especially engaging as it was interactive. We also have plans to try and get students from the school to come on site to Berkeley during the summer.
Mark Horton laughing in front of a giant straw Minion... of course

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Teaching Archaeology & the Media

This year, my supervisor and I were very excited to receive funding from the University of Bristol to conduct some innovative teaching approaches on concepts around "Archaeology and the Media" including social media. The first two sessions took place over the last couple of weeks and student feedback was very promising.

The aim of teaching was to provide students with competencies, strategies and ethics in how to deal with media channels, journalists, social media, etc. (I wasn't teaching them "how to do a tweet"!).

I've adopted a crowdsourcing activity I saw at a HEA workshop earlier this year and mixed up my lecture delivery style with interactive elements. Students responded to both the break of lecture (*brain relief*) and the chance to discuss and hash out what they just learned in small groups, and then bring it back to the larger group.

It's difficult to prove, unless I tie this in to examinations, but I think this process helps with retention of information. It's well understood that we only retain a small precentage of what we hear and write down, but by bolstering this with discussion and reflection, learning is reinforced immediately. By interacting, students also feel more involved, and participation can enhance enjoyment and enthusiasm for the subject.

In addition to one of the lectures, I was also given blocks of seminar time to further develop ideas grounded on the case study of the Berkeley Castle Excavations social media project. I created a loose frame within which the students were encouraged to work independently and collaboratively, at their own speed, following their own interests, with me placed to provide direction and support as required. Again, this was highly effective and many students commented on how they enjoyed this relaxed environment where any idea was welcomed. The added bonus was that students became even more encouraged to join the social media team this summer (hooray!).

In the coming weeks and months, I will be further developing my approaches and writing up my findings. After the summer excavation period, I will produce a report for the University which will contain a model of my approaches that can be lifted and applied to a wide range of subjects (especially those that conduct fieldwork) - this will be made available freely once internally approved. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Remembering the Great War

Back in May/June, the University asked me to plan and manage the Colston Research Symposium: "Remembering the Great War: Perspectives from the Local to the Global". We invited the finest speakers from across the land, see below, and the attendees were just as important!

Hosted at Wills Hall on 23 October, the atmosphere was excited and expectant. Check out the social media buzz, along with photos:

Afterwards, we travelled the Wills Memorial Building, up to the Great Hall to hear from Sir Max Hastings on "Catastrophe 1914". The massive room was packed to near full capacity as hundreds of people sat for the powerful talk.
Dinner at Merchant's Hall, Clifton, Bristol
I was fortunate to then be invited along with speakers and select guests to Merchant's Hall for a very fine dinner. All in all, a very long, busy and rewarding day!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

extra archaeology content

If you haven't already, check out my instagram account. I trawled through my archives and found some super archaeology pics from my travels in Sri Lanka, Greece, France, Spain, Mexico, Ireland, the UK, Japan and beyond:
Plenty more to come!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

TV debut: PhD research on Hell-Fire Caves

Catch me on the telly 8pm "Underground Britain" Channel 5 (20th November)

Will be chatting about the history and archaeology of the Hell-Fire Caves of West Wycombe, and a 3D laser scan conducted with the British Geological Society (BGS).

Monday, November 3, 2014


Have a read of the blog I wrote for the Cabot Institute, University of Bristol.
It's all about my experiences during the RENKEI Summer School, Japan, focusing on Energy and Sustainability:

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

September in Japan

It finally happened - a dream came true - I got to travel to Japan. As one may expect, I was overly excited by this occurrence. I have my sustainability work to thank for the opportunity, as I went to take part in a week long summer school in Tohoku University, part of the RENKEI programme which is a UK-Japan effort. This summer's theme was on Energy Supply within Traditional and Environmentally Conscious Growth Models. I am forever indebted to the University of Bristol for helping make it happen (PVC Nick Lieven for funding provided and Chris Willmore for accepting my application).
Prof. Nakata of Tohoku University presented on Energy and Communities, and acted as our lead academic for the week
While in the city of Sendai during my academic week, I travelled to the local incinerator plant (my first, and super clean), toured the local Toyota factory (very interesting), partook in lots of group work, attended a vast assortment of excellent lectures, and, on the last day, toured tsunami devastated regions to the north.
The best way to explain how incinerators work is, apparently, to use moving light up dinosaurs
We got behind the scenes at the Toyota factory and had talks by leading engineers and directors within the company
The tsunami devastation was contrasted with the scenic beauty that survived
After the week of serious learning, I took off on a roaring tour across Tokyo, Kyoto and Hakone with the fella. Madness ensued. Friends were made. We even invented a new game "Yoshi Soccer"* in a tiny tavern. Used tree-top-skimming glass boxes as transport. Ridiculous boats across volcanic lakes.Endured the Robot Restaurant (so shiny). Geeked out. Cuddle the cat café cats. Were *maid* to feel weird in the Maid Café. Climbed sky trees. Walk under bamboo groves. Witnessed the bling of the Golden Pavillion. Sank into steaming mountain water pools. Dressed in the finest kosode. Drank purple sweet potato milkshakes. Ate lots of things that we didn't understand. Galavanted around castles. Toured Buddhist shrines. Saw open air sculptures. Laughed at swan boats. Museumed. And other things.
Blingtastic. The Golden Pavillion, Kyoto

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Bristol Archaeology & Anthropology

I've just created the Bristol Archaeology & Anthropology Facebook page. We have private groups, but they are not really suitable for public consumption - too many shenigans - so now we have a delightful new welcoming page for new researchers, staff and students, full to the brim with recent news stories. I imagine it will evolve in response to how the Bristol gang use it.
But if you don't like the page, you'll never find out!
Everyone likes to be liked....

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Good News!

I am very very very lucky to have just been awarded the Read-Tuckwell Scholarship from the University of Bristol. Given that I am self-funding this makes a massive difference for me as I head into the last year of my studies. Hooray!
Department news post:

Friday, August 8, 2014

Witches and gnomes in Devon

The fella and I had a bit of holiday time this summer, so we decided to live it up in Devon for two days. Most people might consider the beach (we did, it was lovely), or a relaxing drink in local taverns (did that too). But, we also sought to find the most entertaining offerings of the area. A quick trawl through the internets revealed a plethora of enticing sites: the Barometer Museum (by appointment only, would need to be organised); Big Sheep; and a quarry complex named after one of humankind's finest inventions, Beer.

In the end, I wanted to check out the Museum of Witchcraft, as there could be some links to my study. The PhD radar never sleeps, and I knew I would find it interesting. Off we popped to gobsmackingly-scenic Boscastle. There was a display of Aleister Crowley (PhD tick) and then weird and wonderful collections that I was flabbergasted by. 
Everyone loves a spoon - Uri Geller
I understand that witchcraft appeals to many but incites fear in others - the museum makes a serious effort to warn visitors and to promote respect for the reception and interpretation of witchcraft. I was surprised with the diversity of objects on display, from the esoteric, to the macabre, and there were far more human remains than I envisioned (which poses some ethical questions in itself).

Click below for more photos.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

No news is good news

In the invigorating world of research, sometimes there is just very little to report. I've been reading, do you care? Probably not. I could jazz it up - I've been annihilating the appalling work of so-called academics in my quest for intellectual superiority. More interesting, but not completely true. I'm just researching all about the Hell-Fire Club of Sir Francis Dashwood and tumbling through the myths and truths about his life and everything relating to the infamous club he founded (alledgedly, it might have been someone else, but it was probably him, for this club, not the others - see - it's just swings and roundabouts with this lot of 18th century shenanigan-meisters). 
Me in the Hell-Fire Caves along with mannequins showing Dashwood and his friends #totallyprofessional
I have bee enjoying re-reading Francois Rabelais the 16th century satirical French rascal. He is hilarious and rude and crude and perceptive all at the same time. Plus, he is easy to read, unlike so much of what we researchers have to digest. I'm looking at how his imagining of the Abbey of Theleme relates to motifs used by Dashwood in his building programmes at Medmenham and West Wycombe.

Other news?
  • I'll be posting my Public Archaeology idea soon here: can get involved in the project by reading the posts and commenting - we want your ideas!
  • I'm working on the Academic Assignment Tutor Programme with the University and a local secondary student.
  • I saw Steven Seagal and his Blues Band in Clapham recently... you couldn't make it up!
  • There were some strange days in Devon that featured the Gnome Reserve, Watermouth Castle and the Museum of Witchcraft - more on that soon.

And, just for fun, another throw back thursday shout out to my by-all-accounts-awesome great-grandfather Cantwell who was the archaeologist in Limerick, Ireland (and raises my awe meter readings with all his publications in the Royal Irish Academy).

Archaeology Swag  Great Granddaddy pipe-smoking on site

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Summer Digging at Berkeley (Throw Back Thursday)

Who doesn't love a muddy bottom all the way home?

Landrovers come with their own unique ecosystem, a rare balance of moss, mould, rust and rain puddles on seats!

Take post-excavation sorting outside into the sunshine!

Archaeology has learned so much from the building profession - we too stand around watching one person at work (motivation is integral to productivity)

Part of the Green Apple Scheme-funded temporary exhibition all around Berkeley

Another fantastic exhibition designed by Bristol students at the Jenner Museum (and another at the Castle)

Guest Blog

Check out the guest blog post I wrote for the British Geological Survey!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

First 3D laser scan image of Hell-Fire Caves and Berkeley Archaeology

The first glimpse of the Hell-Fire Caves 3D laser scanning results are here! Lots more to come in the following weeks and months.
Hell-Fire Caves 3D Laser Scan BGS / A Tierney
Hell-Fire Caves 3D Laser Scan BGS / A Tierney
The recent testing of the REACT Reflector went really well, the students responded with enthusiasm. Mark Horton coming along probably helped with that as he got the secondary school students leaping with excitement before taking them on a whirlwind tour of Berkeley Castle and the excavation trenches.
Key words that students used to describe the Reflector
And our work with Berkeley still isn't done. As part of the Green Apple Scheme-funded Community Engagement project, I am putting a temporary exhibition in place at the Jenner Museum, Berkeley Castle, St Mary's Churchyard and the Community Library. The posters produced have been designed by University of Bristol students and reflect topics that arose from our community engagement outreach efforts back in May/June. Posters go up on Saturday, just in time for the Festival of Archaeology.


Friday, June 20, 2014

June is for winning and scanning

Last week I conducted a 3D laser scan of the Hell-Fire Caves at West Wycombe. We took millions upon millions of data points and the full extent is so epic it deserves proper reflection and a proper write up - so expect that soon. And again, a super huge thanks to the British Geological Survey for making my laser scanning dreams come true! They are absolute legends and a pleasure to work with. And to the cave owners and staff - a massive thanks for allowing me unfettered access and for being so welcoming.Here's a teaser behind the scenes shot:
Lee from the BGS using the Faro 3D laser scanner at the Hell-Fire Caves
June was also a good month for awards - my supervisor and I were just awarded a University Teaching Development Grant for my projects involving social media embedded within the annual Berkeley Castle Project. This follows an award from the University's Green Apple Scheme for a community engagement and ethics project (also embedded within the BCP) - I'm in the process of drafting the evaluation for this and the second part of the award will see me set up a temporary exhibition around the town of Berkeley.

Plus, (yes, even more!), I was shortlisted for a University Award for Enhancing the Student Learning Experience - and received a commendation. Quote from Professor Judith Squires, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Education):
" clearly have excelled in your role and the contribution you have made in promoting the University theme of Education for Sustainable Development, in both transformative and innovative capacity, is very much appreciated. On behalf of the University I would like to formally commend and convey our gratitude to you."
I've also joined the REACT team and will be testing a multimedia object box in a school next week. Read more about the project here:

Monday, June 9, 2014

Mid May to mid June update

It's been a heady mix of archaeology on site at Berkeley Castle and work on my sustainability life!

First though, my utter edge of seat excitement that I'll be away later this week at the Hell-Fire Caves with the British Geological Survey - they have kindly offered a team of experts to work with me to 3D laser scan the entire cave system. More updates on that soon.

Onto Berkeley, where I've been training students in how to engage the public with the University's dig around the town. We've had some cracking ideas come up - you might want to try one of our quizzes:

What archaeological site are you?

What kind of archaeologist are you?

Along with videos (my favourite), Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Back on campus, I signed up to the be an academic assignment tutor as part of the Access to Bristol scheme. And it was full steam ahead for developments with sustainability and enterprise education plans.

I even made room for some semblance of a social life and saw the Fun Lovin' Criminals at Grillstock.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Mid-April-mid-May Update

A whirlwind month of productive meetings have passed and it feels great to see some real progress with the University's approach and consideration of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD).

I hopped up to Nottingham for the annual EAUC conference, where I presented on two sessions, one on where Enterprise and Sustainability meet, and the other a joint session with Edinburgh on students and sustainability. The feedback was very positive and the day was followed by a super swish gala dinner and questionable dancing.

The following weekend Graham took part in the 10k Bristol run, raising money for charity - over £1300 so far for Kidney Research - you can donate here:

Then the ESD team ran a HEA-funded workshop on ESD and institutional change, again I presented on two sessions and even got a chance to film some reflections from attendees and speakers.

In between all these bits and pieces, I've been preparing for the upcoming Berkeley excavation season! If you haven't already, check out our feeds @digberkeley or
yay! digging!
And, let's not forget the awesomeness that was the Eurovision #beardedladiesforever !

Sunday, April 13, 2014

IfA Conference Scotland 2014 including adventures


The Institute for Archaeologist's 2014 national conference at Scotland was a resounding success: well attended, creating lots of useful discussion, and bang on good fun!

Myself and my supervisor ran a 3-hour CPD workshop session on Social Media, tailored for those working in archaeology. I will put all the outputs from this online for anyone to view. If you have any ideas get in touch and I can add them to the resources page here:
IfA CPD workshop - Social Media
And the HEA-funded workshop on Health and Safety midweek was fantastic too - lots of decisions and ideas for work to be undertaken - and, best of all, engaging in useful dialogue across sectors.
Students and professionals in dialogue at Health and Safety session (HEA-funded)


We also went on a few rambling walking adventures around the city, discovering the necropolis and the Russian kinetic theatre.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Glasgow Airport security deny my civil liberties and intimidate me into complying

Report on security at Glasgow Airport (warning: your civil liberties may be challenged and dismissed) ---

Beeped as I went through security, asked to step aside. Told to go through scanner machine. Paused and stated: "I would prefer not to do the scanner, is there a frisk option". "I need to ask my manager", stated the lady. He walked over, asked what the problem was, I restated. He said "I need to hear a legitimate reason", I repeated my preference. He restated his stance. I then said, "I will comply if that is what I have to do, but is there another option" to which he replied "Comply is a strong word" and directed me again into the machine.The tone I was spoken to was dismissive, authoritarian and intimidating. I didn't appreciate that.

Comply is a strong word

It felt like when a child doesn't want to eat their broccoli and the parent makes them. Except I'm not a child and the broccoli is, I feel, against my civil liberties if I decline.

A note on the official regulations, now that I have had a chance to check them, from --- You will note that the option I requested and that they officially offer was not provided to me despite me asking numerous times. I am not impressed.

If I'm asked to pass through the security scanner, can I choose to be screened by an alternative method?
The Department for Transport considers that there are no known health effects from the scanners in use at Glasgow Airport. The only alternative that can be offered to a scanner is a private search which allows for a more extensive hand-search than usual. Passengers will be escorted to a different location in the airport from the main search area (e.g. a private search room). The private search may involve the loosening and/or removal of clothing. A person undergoing a private search may ask to be accompanied by a witness. This alternative screening method will take significantly more time than passing through a security scanner.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Update: November 2013 - March 2014

The last few months have been a haze of activity and have kept me out of trouble.

First up - I successfully completed the upgrade process, moving me from MLitt to official PhD student status.

Parliament - I made my debut at the House of Commons, speaking as the representative for ESD in Higher Education. Surprised to find that entering the hallowed halls was a bit like going through airport security.

Awards - the Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) team, including yours truely, were commended for our education efforts at the Green Gown Awards (courses category - see more here:
Me centre holding our commendation from the Green Gown Awards

Research - I did some more survey work at the Hell-Fire Caves; and took a trip to LAARC to conduct x-ray fluorescence analysis of some bits of glassware related to the Hell-Fire Clubs (pew pew)
A sample of the glassware I sampled at LAARC
This is what a sensible academic looks like (#LearningIsFun)
Conference - attended the Shipwreck Archaeology conference in Plymouth: great chats, papers, and new friends.
One of my new friends in Plymouth

Abby - and stopped by Buckfastleigh Abby on the way back.

Blast from the past - found a bunch of golden oldie childhood toys while at home for Christmas.
Pogs! Who remembers pogs!

Presentations - workshops, posters...too many for any sensible person, but at least one of them had cake.
The University understands that its students need cake

New Brighton - it's a place near Liverpool which is guarded by a demented clown. Be afraid.

BAARS - my home away from home, the #LearningIsFun capital of the world: BAARS (Bristol Archaeology & Anthropology Research Seminar Series).
It's all about the post-talk drinks and bonding

New Years - a fantastic get together of friends. Totally civilised. All photos were burned.

Lecture - with limited teaching this term (good for time contraints) I only had to give a few lectures, one to the visiting Access students on Maritime Archaeology, and the other on the material culture of the Japanese Tea Ceremony.

Social - saw Steel Panther (oh dear, they are a lot to handle), went to a delightful Bristol Real Ale Festival; took a scenic trip to Henley-on-Thames, survived Ragnorak, etc.

Press - I did some more BBC 5Live cover for Win Scutt on Archaeology (Giles Dilnott's "Up All Night"); and was interviewed about the Hell-Fire Cave survey plans by BBC 3Counties, which was also covered by the Bucks Free Press and the University in a press release.

Funding - started a crowdfunding project to help get a 3D laser scan of the Hell-Fire Caves done, check it out and support here:

Phew. Need to get back to my PhD by resolve (again) to update more frequently.